They represent both sides of the public school teaching spectrum.
One is a hall of fame wrestling coach finishing his 35th year of education in northern Michigan.
The other is a second-year kindergarten teacher from the west side of the state.
Neither one of them had a problem with the Michigan Education Association until the union refused to allow them to withdraw from it.
The tale of Miriam Chanski and William “Ray” Arthur’s quest for freedom began with them trying to work with the MEA. Both teachers let the union know, in writing, that they did not want to be part of it for the 2013-2014 school year.
Miriam sent her letter in June. Ray sent his in September.
But the union claimed neither could leave. It cited an “August window” time period where teachers could resign from the union, believing its bylaws somehow trumped Michigan’s right-to-work law. Neither teacher had heard of this restricted time period.
The union admitted to not communicating when teachers could leave and bragged in October saying “99% of members remain with the MEA.”
The MEA threatened Chanski and Arthur by saying it would turn them over to a collections agency and ruin their credit if they did not pay.
When all attempts to work with the union failed, they contacted the Mackinac Center for help.
The Center sprang into action, visiting both teachers in person to collect information of their situation.
With the help of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, the teachers filed unfair labor practice charges against the MEA.
Michigan Capitol Confidential informed the public about the “August window” issue with articles and videos that resonated with readers and viewers.
Michigan media outlets began picking up the stories of teachers treated unfairly by their union and being threatened and bullied to pay the union despite Michigan’s worker freedom law.
On Dec. 12, 2013, National Review Online published a story titled, “Michigan Teachers Locked In: A union offers its members a narrow opt-out window that it tries to keep a secret.” It featured Ray Arthur’s story of struggle against an organization that he supported financially for 34 years and was now working against him.
The next day, Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Director Patrick Wright and Chanski appeared on Fox News’s “The Sean Hannity Show.” Miriam’s story remained the top feature for four days on Hannity’s website.
Miriam told MLive that in February the MEA offered her a settlement that included a gag order, which would have required her to keep silent about the case and the resolution. She refused.
The MEA finally backed down, and Chanski and Arthur left the union.
The victory came exactly 10 years to the month after the Mackinac Center triumphed over the MEA in a case of free speech.
When MLive covered the teachers’ victory, it quickly became one of the most commented on news story on its website.
Both teachers say they did not fight only for themselves. They said there are many more teachers in the same position who needed a voice and that they gave them that voice.
During a legal hearing, the MEA’s executive director said that there are 8,000 members who have not paid dues.
While their backgrounds and locations are different, Chanski and Arthur have one main component in common: they’re winners. They stood up for what they believed in despite pressure from colleagues and threats from a very large and powerful union.
And there are many other stories yet to be told.